The sagging of the Cathedral

One thing Den Bosch is known for is the Sint-Janskathedraal (Saint John’s Cathedral). The first foundations were laid around 1380.

The swampy soil in swamp dragon Den Bosch has always caused many problems during construction. Every time a piece of the cathedral was built, it sank into the swampy ground. The builders didn’t know what to do. A competition was organized: anyone who had the solution to stop the sagging of the cathedral was richly rewarded. The citizens of Den Bosch sent in numerous possible solutions. The builders looked at every of them. However, the award-winning solution was never included.

Just recently, a new family came to town. Toon, Marie and little Toon arrived in Den Bosch. Nobody knew them very well. Marie never had a chat with the neighbors and Toon was always at home or walking drunk trough the streets of Den Bosch. Because they lived so withdrawn, a lot was gossiped about them.

Toon heard about the competition. He read a lot old books and had read about the solution for the sagging of the cathedral. He went to the master builder: “You have a problem, I’ve heard. As you may know, I read a lot of old books.” Toon continued: “In one of those books, I’ve found the solution for your problem.”


The master builder was anxious to hear about the solution Toon had. “Well, it is actually a secret,” Toon said. “I want to tell you about it, but my price is high. I will tell you the solution for a price that is higher than the reward of the competition.” The master builder did not count on this. He told Toon: Your solution has everything to do with respect for Our Lord. A very big reward is not something that can be reconciled with it.”

“You may be right,” Toon said, “But without my advice, Den Bosch will never have a cathedral. I will come back at the end of the week, so you can consult with the other builders…”

Toon went home to his wife, Marie. She wanted to know if they accepted his offer. “My pockets are empty Toon, we need the money. We can’t get anything for free at the baker’s. We will die of starvation.”

In the meanwhile, little Toon played outside in the streets. His mother called him. He had to go to the baker’s and try to get another bread. The store was packed with people. Little Toon asked the baker for a bread and he answered: you’re not getting anything from me. Pay your debts first. Little Toon told the baker they were getting a large amount of money at the end of the week. “My father has the solution to prevent the sagging of cathedral.” “Yeah right…” the baker answered. “What is this incredible solution?”

“My father read in old books that when you put salted ox skins under the foundation, the cathedral will not sag anymore,” little Toon answered. The baker gave Little Toon a bread. “But pay this week.”

Little Toon went home and told his dad what happened at the baker’s. “WHAT?!” Toon shouted. “Did you tell the solution out loud in a crowded store? How could you do this? Stupid boy!”. He jumped off his chair and threw little Toon out on the street. Little Toon hit his head so hard he died immediately.


  • Learn more about the construction and maintenance of Sint Jan on the website of Erfgoed Den Bosch.
  • Read about this story in Verhalen uit de Meierij, written by Josien Stehouwer.

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